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Exploring Leadership: A Personal Journey Part 2 – Interview Question: Describe your leadership style

This blog is part of a series.  Last year, I embarked on a personal development project with the aim of discovering what skills I would need to become the leader I had always looked for.  I identified successful leaders from nonprofit, corporate and education backgrounds and asked them the same series of six questions, the results of which are shared in this 8-week series.  Use the arrows at the bottom of the page to navigate between the related posts.

Shannon Wealther

I began each interview with asking the individual to describe their leadership style simply because some of the interviewees I knew personally in their leadership roles, others I had never met before.  I also believe it is important to hear from each person how they view and describe their own leadership style.  It reveals what they believe to be important without having to ask the question.  And among the majority of the responses, one major theme emerged: a focus on the individuals they were leading.  It didn’t always come out in the same way or using the same vocabulary, but ultimately the message was still the same; they take care of their people.

This is when I was first introduced to the idea of servant leadership, leading to serve others, rather than focusing solely on the financial success of their company or organization.  Some used the term, others just described it, but these leaders all expressed an emphasis on relationships and investing in their personnel.  We see this trend right now in education where teachers are encouraged to create positive relationships with their students to promote their growth, and it is now just starting to catch on in the realm of leadership.  Significant attention and resources are now being directed towards employee engagement, but the leaders I interviewed were doing it long before it was the trend.  It wasn’t a temporary solution to dissatisfaction in the workplace but an everyday commitment to empower their staff.

They are leaders that are visible.  They are known throughout the organization and they take the time to know others.  They are leaders who communicate effectively, provide clear expectations and guidance.  They recognize the strengths in their people and ensure they are in the right position.  They believe that each individual contributor is the owner of their own role and the leaders’ job is to provide the training and support needed for them to become the expert.  As leaders, they understand it is not their job to always have the best idea or the right answer; their job is to find it.  And these leaders choose to find it among their staff.  They look for the solutions that provide the greatest outcomes for the most people and take ALL stakeholders into account.  And lastly, as leaders, they are reliable and consistent.  They do what they say, follow-through and expect the same from others.  That’s not to say these leaders never have to make unpopular decisions or have difficult conversations, but they do have the relationships with their staff to maintain their trust afterwards.

Each one of these leaders believes in creating an environment that maximizes the contributions of their personnel.  I think “believe” is the key word here.  They aren’t just going through the motions; it is a part of who they are.  None of the leaders mentioned financial aspects of their organization or business; their answers revealed their priority is their people.  They genuinely value the people that keep the organization running and it is this underlying value that drives how they lead.  True leadership develops not only in the mind but in the heart and I think that is where these leaders succeed.

NEXT: Exploring Leadership: A Personal Journey Part 3 – Interview Question: What three characteristics should every leader have?

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